Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – CONCORD, NC – When the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and zMAX Dragway first made plans for a four-wide drag race in 2010, Cruz Pedregon considered himself a fan of the concept. Heading into this weekend’s 10th annual NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at the state-of-the-art facility, not much has changed for the two-time Funny Car world champion.
Pedregon still enjoys the most unique experience in drag racing, picking up his first four-wide win a year ago. It broke a long winless streak and now the veteran driver looks to grab his first win of 2019 in his 10,000-horsepower Snap-On Tools Dodge Charger. Based on previous performances, Pedregon, who is currently 11th in Funny Car points, has high expectations for the weekend as he again looks to thrive at one of the biggest spectacles in motorsports.
“Ten years for this race is a great milestone, and I’ve liked it from the very beginning,” said Pedregon, who has 36 career Funny Car wins. “It’s a little different and it mixes things up a little bit, but I like it. You get four Funny Cars out there, it’s quite a scene. It’s a lot of power. I like the facility and I love the track, and I’ve made some of my best runs in Charlotte.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Pedregon (Funny Car), and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a broadcast of the finals on Sunday, April 28 at 6:00 p.m. (ET). It is the sixth of 24 events during the 2019 NHRA season and Pedregon will look to cash in during the special 10th anniversary of the race.
Pedregon thrived in the unique conditions a year ago at zMAX Dragway, and he believes he’s bringing a better car to the race in 2019. He has qualified in the top half of the field at four of the first five races, qualifying third in Las Vegas. It has translated to just two round wins thus far, but Pedregon believes that luck is about to change. Things have come together well early in the season, and Pedregon remains confident in the path his team has taken.
“We’re on track and if we keep chopping wood, we’ll break through,” Pedregon said. “The main thing to do is not try too hard. You can’t press too hard whether you’re tuning or driving, and you just have to be confident in what you’re doing can carry you through. When you start pressing, that’s when you start making mistakes. This isn’t our first rodeo. The car is running well and we’re confident in what we’re doing away from the track and at the track will pay off.”
With the schedule picking up, including a stretch of three races in four weeks and seven in nine weeks, Pedregon knows he will need to be in prime form. Throw in the fact he’ll be competing against the likes of points leader Robert Hight, who has three wins in 2019, defending world champ J.R. Todd, John Force, Ron Capps and Phoenix winner Matt Hagan, and things get even more difficult. But Pedregon likes performing when things get challenging, and he seems to excel during the frenetic pace of the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
“Every driver has a track where they do well, and for whatever reason Charlotte has been good to me,” Pedregon said. “I love going there. Our car is as good or a tick better than last year, so we’ll just try to go out and do what we did last year. For me, I prefer this type of year when it gets busy. I can get in more of a groove and we feel like the breaks will start to come for us.”
Defending Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence will look for his first win of 2019 against the likes of points leader Doug Kalitta, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, who won in Houston, Gainesville winner Richie Crampton, Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican and Antron Brown.
Veteran Jerry Savoie, the 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ, grabbed his first four-wide victory in 2018. He’ll look to repeat against a talented crop of riders that includes five-time champ Andrew Hines, Vegas four-wide winner Hector Arana Jr. and defending world champ Matt Smith.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the third of 12 stops in 2019 with its appearance at zMAX Dragway. Jose Gonzalez grabbed his first career win in the popular class last year at the event, while Todd Tutterow and Stevie “Fast” Jackson have claimed the first two wins of 2019. Fan favorites Erica Enders and Alex Laughlin will be competing in this exciting category as well.
The ultra-competitive SAMTech.edu NHRA Factory Stock Showdown will hit the track for its second appearance of the season. This growing series features production car drag racing at its best. Fans of modern muscle cars will love these quick and unpredictable machines that represent the ultimate in technology and performance.
Back by popular demand, the exciting Mountain Motor Pro Stock class will make its four-wide racing debut in Charlotte this year. With dynamic paint schemes and throwback hood scoops, Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars bring maximum entertainment value when they hit the track, making the second of four appearances in 2019. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
The second round of qualifying on Friday night will be a special treat for as the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals go Prime Time! With pyrotechnics, a live DJ, driver intro music and header flames under the lights, this will be an unforgettable experience for race fans.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 26 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 27, at 2:00 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 28.